PULLMAN — Wins did not come easily for football coach Mike Leach and staff in their first season at Washington State. Score the Pac-12 Conference’s report of a nearly two-month investigation into Marquess Wilson’s abuse allegations as the staff’s biggest victory.
The conference released its findings Tuesday of a review conducted by a Kansas City law firm hired for the task. WSU coaches were cleared of the verbal, physical and emotional abuse Wilson claimed in a Nov. 10 letter to media outlets.
“No surprise,” Leach said in a text message to Sportspress Northwest. “The truth speaks for itself.”
The school’s all-time leading yards-getter quit the team 20 minutes into a Nov. 4 disciplinary conditioning session the day after an embarrassing 49-6 loss to Utah. The subsequent letter created a media firestorm that led WSU president Elson Floyd and athletic director Bill Moos to call for an internal investigation from the university regarding the conditioning session, as well as a halftime altercation between players and outside linebacker coach Paul Volero. The Pac-12 started an investigation at the same time.
Both investigations concluded the coaching staff wasn’t at fault, thanks in part to a text message sent from Wilson to Moos that retracted his media statement hours after he released the letter. The Pac-12 report said Wilson received considerable help writing the letter from his mother and stepfather and didn’t mean to use the word “abuse.”
What about the locker room incident where Volero grabbed players by the chest plates in an effort, it was said, to “fire them up”?
All a part of college football, according to the law firm’s findings after they interviewed 20 players and coaches, including Wilson.
“Football is a physical game and it’s not unusual for a coach in football to try and exhort his players to be more physical by getting physical with them,” the report said.
A relaxed Moos fielded questions in an impromptu press conference where he exchanged verbal jabs with reporters. However, he kept his commentary aimed at his own department.
“I was pleased that the Pac-12’s findings were consistent with our athletic department’s review,” he said. “I’m confident that we’re managing this department very well. If anything, I’m more enthused about the path we are on.”
The Pac-12’s report also looked into whether injured players were forced to return to the practice field before they fully healed. Strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo often had team members who were rehabbing injuries go through sand pit workouts while practice went on. The review took no issue with Loscalzo conducting sand pit exercises with players who were not completely healthy. Additionally, the firm said Leach’s “Midnight Maneuver” off-season workouts, which take place past 10 p.m., did not violate NCAA bylaws.
The 34-page report concluded by recommending that the department create a discipline/workout conditioning policy while placing closer oversight on how many hours a week players practice. It also reinforced Moos’s decision to halt Loscalzo from spraying players in the face with a hose during sandpit workouts in the early stages of fall camp.
“This has become old news, Moos said. “It’s time to move on.”
Notable: Moos said he doesn’t know if Wilson will look to continue his college career or enter the NFL draft this spring. A report from Cougfan.com two weeks ago indicated Fresno State was recruiting Wilson hard. The California native would have to sit out a year, per NCAA transfer rules, before becoming eligible for his senior season.